Right now, it’s more important than ever to find techniques that can support mental health and well-being. Yoga is one holistic way, in particular, that’s deeply rooted in helping people achieve a sense of harmony and balance between the body and mind. Below, we outline 13 calming poses from experts that can easily be incorporated to do just that.
The 13 Most Calming Yoga Poses
- Why? The world is upside down — we can practice how we deal with this time by getting upside down ourselves. The headstand pose instantly promotes focus, requires you to take deep breaths and builds strength.
- How to: Start on hands and knees. Interlace fingers and create a basket with hands. Place the center-top of the head on the ground and rest the back of the head in a basket of hands. Tuck toes and lift knees and walk feet as close to the head as possible. Bend knees into the chest and slowly lift the legs.
2. Plank Pose
- Why? Contrary to what we might instinctively think, a challenging posture like a plank CAN help promote relief. By giving a challenge to the body, we automatically focus the mind and train the breath to be calm no matter the intensity of the moment.
- How to: Assume a high pushup (plank) position with knees on the ground or lifted. Stay for 15 breaths, keeping the mind focused on even inhales and exhales. After 15 breaths, take a relaxing child’s pose until the breath and heart rate are completely back to normal.
3. Bridge Pose
- Why? This posture requires attention to the whole body, encouraging a sense of complete presence.
- How to: The bridge pose can be taken with or without a prop underneath your hips. Start on your back, knees bent and feet on the floor close to hips as possible. Arms down by your sides, palms face down. Lift hips away from the ground as much as you can, keeping the head and neck completely still. Close your eyes and take 5-10 full breaths, keeping the body relaxed.
4. Child’s Pose
- Why? This posture allows you to physically close-off to the world around you, allowing you to draw your attention inward and focus more on your breaths. It also opens up your hips, an area where many of us hold ample tension and tightness.
- How to: Kneeling on the floor, draw your two big toes together and spread your knees wide. Ease your belly in-between your thighs and rest your third eye center (space in between your eyebrows) on the earth. Reach your fingertips for the horizon of your mat and palm the ground.
5. Supine Twist
- Why? This posture is cleansing and replenishes drained energy if you’re feeling on-edge.
- How to: Start on your back and hug your knees into your chest. Keep your right knee close and extend your left leg long to rest on your mat. Breathe in and pull your right knee gently around your right ribs. Exhale and draw your right knee across your body. Stack your hips and gaze at the ceiling, or if you’re feeling open, to your right. Don’t worry about your right knee touching the ground; focus on keeping both shoulders rooted on the earth. Breathe here for several breaths then return to center and repeat on your second side.
6. Tree Pose
- Why? This balancing pose demands you to focus your attention on an unmoving object ahead; if your gaze or your mind strays, you'll fall out.
- How to: Begin standing with your feet together underneath you and your hands at your heart-center. Shift your weight to your left foot and place the sole of your right foot on your inner left calf or thigh. To challenge yourself, extend your arms to your side or above your head. Make sure your foot isn't pressing on your knee. Repeat on the second side.
7. Legs Up The Wall
- Why? This is the ultimate restorative pose to replenish your body if you’ve been feeling off.
- How to: Start seated against the wall with your left side against the wall, your knees bent, and your feet flat on the floor. Rotate your head away from the wall and lie on your back, stretching your legs up the wall so that your heels are higher than your knees. Breathe here for several breaths.
From Blair Atkins, Los Angeles-based yoga teacher
8. Seated Forward Fold
- Why? This pose provides a stretch for the entire back body from heels to head and helps quiet the mind.
- How to: Sit upright with your legs extended directly out in front of you. Bend the knees about six inches from the mat so your heels are firmly rooted and you can sit up tall. Inhale your arms up above you, on your exhale hug around your bent knees bringing your head towards the tops of your thighs.
9. Standing Fold
- Why? Forward folds naturally slow the body down and bring more calm to the mind. This variation has the added benefit of a shoulder/chest opening, an area that frequently tightens when we are working with tech all day.
- How to: Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart. Clasp your hands behind you at the small of your back, aiming to keep the heels of the hands touching. Inhale, gaze up and expand the chest. On your exhale, bend into the knees and fold over your legs. Maintain a clasp in the hands as you fold to stretch the shoulders and chest.
From Daphne Feller, NYC-based yoga and pilates instructor
10. Half Pigeon Pose
- Why: Half pigeon is very relaxing because the majority of people hold tension in their hips. Surrendering in this pose for longer than 60 seconds allows you to release strain that has been stored in the fascia.
- How to: Draw-in the right knee towards your armpit wider than hip. Shin should be parallel to the front of your mat as your left leg remains long behind you and you come down onto your forearms. Switch sides.
11. Half Happy Baby Pose
- Why: This is a great pose to stretch out the psoas muscle from all the sitting we do—it can also invoke joy and laughter from rolling side to side, especially if you roll too deeply over to one side and fall over!
- How to: Bring your elbows to the inside of your knees with feet flexed up to the sky. Lower your back flat against the mat. Hold onto one foot as you extend the opposite leg straight down to the mat with the foot flexed back. Imagine being a baby who just discovered their feet for the first time.
From Rony Ghoraishy, Los-Angeles based yoga instructor
12. Downward-Facing Dog
- Why? This pose can help release strain in the lower back and brings blood to your whole body.
- How to: Start on all fours, placing your hands directly under your shoulders. Spread your fingers evenly and root down from the base of the fingers to the tips, keeping the wrists light. Lift your hips high, feeling free to keep the knees bent so that the lower back isn’t too rounded. Inhale and draw strength from the hands, through the arms, into the upper back. Exhale, press from the shoulders into the hands as you lift and widen your sitting bones.
13. Bound Angle Pose
- Why? This pose might be the perfect way to end your practice—or, continue your journey into balance with more hip openers, twists and forward folds.
- How to: Start sitting on the floor with a neutral pelvis. If your hips are tight, sit up on a blanket or block. Bend your knees to the sides and bring the bottoms of your feet together. Slide your feet back toward your pelvis to deepen the stretch across your inner thighs. You can place your hands behind you on the floor, hold your feet, or hold your ankles—whatever feels best. Inhale, press your feet together. Exhale, widen and lower your knees. Keep your lumber spine curved in and your spine upright.
From Patrick Montgomery, yoga instructor and Brand Integration Director at Movement Climbing + Fitness
Finally, we end with a bit of sound advice from Montgomery: “Accept that today might not be the day to make progress, and that's OK. Trust your inner teacher for guidance on how much is too much effort (or not enough). Let your yoga be about finding your way back home to your Highest Self, and most balanced state, to navigate difficult times with more love, courage and wisdom.”